Chances to Join LINCS

For over two years, LifeinLINCS has brought you news, views and discussion from the Department of Languages and Intercultural Studies. Now, we would like to offer you two chances to join us.

The first is our new advertisement for PhD scholarships. If you would love to study child language brokering, quality in Public Service Interpreting, police interpreting, cultural heritage or any one of a long range of topics related to translation, interpreting and culture, Heriot-Watt is the place to be. All the instructions are on the website and you will join a growing, vibrant community of passionate researchers.

In addition to that, this year, we will be running another Edinburgh International Research Summer School. The guest speakers are the internationally renowned Franz Pöchhacker and Barbara Moser-Mercer. Click on the EIRSS webpage for more info.

How Open is Research?

Back in May last year, I wrote the following words in a column in the ITI Bulletin, “Researchers could discover a way to double efficiency, win new clients and increase translators’ status but, unless those at the sharp end of the profession take an interest, none of this would ever filter down to practice.” Since then, I have had the privilege of taking part in print, online and face-to-face discussions over that very point but the facts have not changed much at all.

As Mike Gulliver points out, the problem goes far deeper than telling people what is out there. Academic publishing, imbalances in power, and even promotion requirements all tip the balance away from people outside of academia being able to have meaningful access to research.

The problem goes much deeper than even that. One of the things that has surprised me the most when writing for language professionals about research is how much work it takes to rewrite, rethink and even resell existing research to make it “accessible”. Taking the abstract of a paper and throwing it onto a professional forum just isn’t enough. In fact, it might even be counter-productive.

If researchers are really committed to opening up research to wider communities, we need to spend a lot of time examining how those communities speak, what values their members hold and what the key debates are. This taps into the fascinating discussion that took place on LifeinLINCS on Deaf-Hearing involvement in research. One of the main points to come out of that was that, for as long as the system is implicitly biased away from Deaf involvement, the onus is on the Hearing academics to open the doors.

Doubtless, much the same argument could be made for translation and interpreting. True, the number of professional translators and interpreters involved in research is far, far higher than the number of Deaf people. Still, it would be naïve to think that, since language professionals can read the language a piece of reading is written in, they can automatically engage with it.

Quite simply, they can’t! For a typical professional to get access to research on, say, ethics, they would most likely have to learn the academic terminology (for things they do every day!), figure out how to get meaningful results from google scholar, subscribe to a journal, hunt down authors, decode mountains of academese and then understand how methods and results affect each other. It’s little wonder that results take so long to filter down, if they do at all!

Academia isn’t exactly outsider-friendly. Of course, co-operative projects like this one, this one and this one will certainly help. When academics and professionals work together, there is added impetus for outcomes to be accessible and open to engagement.

In these days of impact statements and (horror!) required public engagement, co-operation is a good start but more profound shifts might be necessary. Might it be possible, in the near future, for journal articles to be written in language that is academically rigourous and yet still accessible to the wider public? Might there be a case for articles in professional journals, public fora, and even good blogs to count as research publications? Could academics in Translation Studies be brave enough to use the work of language professionals as the starting point of their research?

The issues around research engagement will not go away and resolving them will involve much more than just writing the odd article or doing a workshop. In fact, it seems that research in Translation and Interpreting might need to undergo a massive shift if long-term engagement is to be accomplished.  So where do we go from here?

Interpreting for deaf jurors (BSL version)

Jury service in adversarial court systems is an important civic duty and responsibility. Jurors have to understand and weigh up evidence presented, assess the credibility of witnesses and decide on the likelihood of certain events having occurred in the light of their own personal experiences.

There has been increasing interest in whether deaf sign language users should be permitted to serve as jurors. In the USA deaf people have been serving as jurors in criminal trials since 1979. Legal challenges in the UK and Ireland have established that deaf people have the capacity to make decisions as jurors, and can sufficiently comprehend courtroom discourse and jury deliberations through a sign language interpreter (Heffernan, 2010). A deaf woman served on an inquest jury in the UK in 2011, and in Ireland they have increased the pool of potential jurors, but deaf people still cannot serve as jurors in criminal trials in either country (Farrell, 2013).

In early 2014, Gaye Lyons in Australia lost her discrimination case for being turned away from jury service, and may take a complaint to the United Nations. On a positive note, more recently Drisana Levitzke-Gray was the first deaf sign language user in Australia to participate in the jury selection process with an interpreter, although she did not get selected onto the final jury. This month a deaf woman in Scotland has been summoned for jury service and intends to ask for an interpreter.

The sticking point is the long-held common law that there cannot be a non-juror ‘stranger’ (i.e., an interpreter) as a 13th person in the jury room. The main concern has been that interpreters would inappropriately participate in confidential jury deliberations. As interpreters, we know that we are bound by a code of ethics, which requires us to remain impartial and uphold confidentiality.

There is no evidence for the impact that an interpreter may have as 13th person in the jury room on the sanctity of jury deliberations, either negative or positive. The only empirical research on deaf jurors to date has been conducted by Jemina Napier and David Spencer (2006, 2008), which has provided evidence that deaf and hearing jurors equally misunderstood content of jury instructions, and therefore deaf people are not disadvantaged by relying on sign language interpreters; and that legal professionals and sign language interpreters surveyed perceive that with supportive and clear policies and guidelines, and sufficient training for interpreters and court staff/stakeholders, deaf people can successfully serve as jurors (Napier, 2013).

Yet there is a lack of evidence for what actually happens in the jury deliberation room, and whether the assumption that the presence of an interpreter could impact (negatively) on the deliberation process is valid. Currently, Jemina Napier and David Spencer are working with a bigger team of experts in interpreting and law research, including Sandra Hale, Debra Russell and Mehera San Roque, on an Australian Research Council funded project to conduct a case study of a mock- criminal trial and jury deliberations with a deaf juror and interpreters to focus specifically on the analysis of interactions in the jury deliberation room.

The outcomes of this research have the potential to pioneer law reform worldwide, and have an impact on the provision of interpreting services in courts for deaf people. Watch this space…

Author: Jemina Napier

New Competition: Sign the Anthem

Today’s blog posting announces a competition being run by the Centre for Translation & Interpreting Studies in Scotland (CTISS), this Department’s longest-established research centre. It’s a translation challenge, and it’s open to all. Let me explain.

In case you didn’t know, 2014 is a big year for Scotland.

Of course, there’s the small matter of a referendum on independence from the rest of the United Kingdom. There’s the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
Meanwhile, Edinburgh will be hosting festival after festival, as it always does. No wonder it’s been designated a year of Homecoming.

We at Heriot-Watt are looking forward to a major step forward for Scotland’s users of British Sign Language (BSL). Because a Member of the Scottish Parliament, Mark Griffin, plans to introduce legislation in our Parliament advancing the cause of BSL nationwide.
We’re doing our bit, working with the Scottish Government’s BSL & Linguistic Access Working Group.

But here’s one thing we’d like to see that won’t need an Act of Parliament.
And we want your help right now to make this happen.

Scotland is rightly proud of its cultural heritage. One of the ways in which a community displays that pride is through national symbols: a flag – Scots wave the Saltire – national dress, an anthem, and so on.

But what do Deaf people do when the nation sings, when hearts fill with fierce emotion and passion?

Well, a great example has just been set in the USA. The biggest event in the American Football calendar, the Superbowl, took place on 2nd February 2014. Before the game, ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ rang out around the stadium. And this year, sponsored () by PepsiCo, a young Deaf American actress, Amber Zion, delivered the anthem in eloquent, visually arresting American Sign Language.

And so here is our challenge to you. We think it’s time for a BSL performer to match Amber Zion’s awesome ASL delivery.

It could be you.

Scotland’s anthem on such occasions is ‘Flower of Scotland‘. (If you want to hear it at stadium volume, try this!)

We would like to see your translations of this great song. You can upload them to YouTube, Vimeo or elsewhere and post a link here. Or you can send them to the Director of CTISS, Professor Graham Turner. Or contact us to arrange an alternative. Either way, be sure to include details about yourself (particularly your age, whether you’re hearing or deaf, and how long you’ve been signing) and your e-mail address. A panel of Scottish BSL experts will select the best.

And, who knows? You might make history.

Author: Graham Turner

Irish in a multilingual world

In my previous post, I mentioned that new speakers of Irish are bringing the language into new contexts. While some speakers still try to model their Irish on what was traditionally spoken in the Gaeltacht, many others deliberately move away from this model. They break the rules of grammar and adopt hybridized forms of language. Although language purists may be critical of these non-conventional forms, as we all know the nature of language use is that it changes. The language is also been used in new and creative ways by the many new speakers of Irish amongst Ireland’s New Irish. These New Irish originate from places like Poland, Romania, Nigeria, the Philippines and China, to name but a few. I recently met a woman from Poland who was learning Irish and sending her children to an Irish-medium school. Many of the parents of immigrant background I met were very enthusiastic about learning Irish and ensuring their children would become speakers of the language. In a way, becoming a new speaker of Irish is not such a big deal for them. They are already multilingual individuals anyway. So they’re open to the idea of learning and trying out new languages. Of course new speakers of Irish are not restricted to Ireland itself. Irish is also spoken outside of Ireland. You can study Irish in Germany, Spain and Russia and there are dozens of universities in North America where Irish is taught. In fact, with the help of technology and the Internet, it is possible to learn Irish from anywhere in world without ever even coming to Ireland. To end, here is a fun video which tells the story of Yu Ming who learned Irish in China. As you will see, however, when he reaches Ireland he is a bit frustrated to find that in Ireland’s capital city, Dublin, he finds it difficult to find Irish speakers. For new speakers of minority languages, this is often a challenge and the active seeking out of speakers is a big part of the process. [youtube] Bernie O’Rourke Email – B.M.A.O’ Academia – Bernadette O’Rourke Twitter – @BernORourke